"Things are as they are, and their consequences will be what they will be. Why then should we seek to be deceived?"
Columnist Stewart Alsop, dead now these 30 years, once closed a column with this quote from the philosopher Bishop Berkeley. His column, I believe, was about Vietnam.
As we approach the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we, too, can see the shape of things to come.
In the ideology of "democratic fundamentalism" to which George W. Bush converted after 9/11, we are simply in a rough patch on the glory road to a democratic Middle East and "the end of tyranny on this earth."
In reality, our situation has never been more grim.
The successful experiment that featured the "freest, fairest elections ever held" in Palestine is dead. Over 125 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. The Gaza Strip is a shambles. The terror wing of Hamas will have no trouble recruiting in the rubble.
The same is true of Lebanon. The "Cedar Revolution" was a Bush success, a beacon of hope. That Hezbollah won a dozen seats only seemed to prove that the elections had indeed been free, fair and open to all.
Now Lebanon is in ruin. The 900 dead, thousands wounded, the million refugees, the smashed infrastructure and the scores of thousands of Westerners who have fled means years before Lebanon recovers, if ever she does. Arab hatred of Israel and America is pandemic.
Hezbollah ignited the hostilities. But it was Israel that escalated to rain destruction on a people and nation that had not countenanced or condoned Hezbollah’s provocation, but condemned it.
Think back. Had Reagan done to Lebanon, when half a dozen Americans were seized as hostages, what Israel has done, when two soldiers were taken hostage, Democrats would have denounced Reagan as a war criminal. Conservatives would have begged him to ease up.
Yet, almost to a man and woman, our politicians are falling all over one another to express their 100 percent support of what Israel has done to Lebanon. Even Israelis must feel a measure of contempt for this kind of groveling.
Indeed, in Israel, dissent against the blitzkrieg is rising, and the Olmert regime is being challenged and even condemned by courageous Israelis for letting the air force have a free hand to smash Lebanon.
Moving on to Iraq, where the war has lasted as long as our war on Nazi Germany, Gen. John Abizaid is warning that a descent into civil war is now possible, and Bush concedes that, three years and three months after "Mission Accomplished," the situation in Baghdad is "terrible."
Questions now on the table are: Will America let go? Will Iraq break apart? Americans are not all that far away from a strategic disaster.
Whatever happens to Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, the new center of gravity of the Democratic Party is antiwar. Democratic hawks are a dying species. Al Gore now emerges, given his authentic antiwar credentials and emergence as a world leader of the global warming movement, as the Left’s best hope for the nomination.
Kerry and Edwards, the 2004 ticket, know which way the wind is blowing. Both have declared that had they known in 2002 what they know today, they would not have voted for the war. Hillary senses the ground shifting beneath her feet. Last week, she scourged Rumsfeld, called for his resignation and denounced Pentagon mismanagement of the war.
Two years and three months before November 2008, the Democratic Party has pulled out of the Bush coalition; two-thirds of the nation considers Iraq a mistake; and a majority wants the troops home.
Can Bush sustain support for the war as the news from Iraq gets worse and worse? For, if this war is lost on the home front, the war will be lost in Mesopotamia.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are fighting in larger units and, colluding with drug lords, killing more Afghans and allied troops than they have in five years. Hamid Karzai reigns in Kabul but does not rule. U.S.-NATO forces are not losing battles, but they are insufficient in number to win the war.
Iran, fearful of Bush in 2003, is now rejecting U.S.-EU bribes and rejecting any suspension of its uranium enrichment program. Bring it on, Ahmadinejad seems to be saying to Bush. As for Pakistan, the Islamists there remain but a bullet away from custody of an atomic bomb.
While all these are trends, none seem to be going our way.
The Israeli-American ace of trumps, raw military power, is still able to defeat armies and destroy states, but it has proven less effective in eradicating guerrillas, and counterproductive in changing Islamic hearts and minds.
If neither U.S. party is willing to show any independence of Israel, if America will not address the root causes of Arab animosity, and if we will not even negotiate with our enemies, we should probably pack up and get out of the Middle East. Before we are thrown out.